28 Jan 2009

Rugby passion but no glamour for Monaco team

9:51 am on 28 January 2009

The glamorous principality of Monaco is home to millionaires, celebrities -- and one of the worst rugby union teams in Europe.

Monaco has a national side, created 10 years ago, who are battling it out with fellow minnows Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Cyprus and Slovakia in the obscure Pool 3-D of the European Nations Cup.

They have no ground, no coach, no professional player and, most embarrassingly, no Monaco citizen, which means they often end up losing on appeal the rare matches they do win on the pitch.

Monaco prop Mattieu Loupe says as they don't have don't have any player eligible to play for Monaco, so the opponents often lodge protests and end up being awarded victory.

Second from bottom in their group, Monaco are looking forward to hosting Azerbaijan on Saturday. Former France captain Jean-Francois Tordo, who lives nearby, has agreed to give them some much-needed coaching advice for the game.

As they are not allowed to ruin the soccer pitch of Monaco's Louis-II stadium, the side train and play their home matches on various grounds in French cities near the principality.

The team is made up mostly of players from the Monaco and nearby Menton clubs, who are used to facing each other in a low-key regional league.

One is South African, another is Moroccan. There is also a Canadian ski instructor and a British oil trader.